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Creatives and independents are breathing new life into Belfast city centre thanks to Vacant to Vibrant funding

Date: 08 Dec 2023

Category: City regeneration and development

Verona Bridal is one of 15 organisations being supported through Belfast City Council's Vacant to Vibrant funding

Verona Bridal, Skull and Bones Tattoo Studio and Flax Art Studios are just three of the 15 successful Vacant to Vibrant applicants to date breathing new life into Belfast city centre, with many more progressing – ranging from retail, beauty and food and beverage offerings.

Vacant to Vibrant is a key project in Belfast City Council’s Future City Centre Programme, aimed at creating a vibrant, unique and thriving place where people spend time, live, work, study, visit and invest. The £1 million pilot capital grant scheme opened in July 2022 in response to the high levels of city centre vacancy, aiming to incentivise both property owners and potential occupiers to bring vacant Belfast city centre spaces back into use, while supporting the city centre’s revitalisation and ensuring sustainable rates growth.

Applicants on the scheme can also benefit from wrap around support offered by council’s Enterprise and Business Growth team, providing resources to support the start-up or expansion of the business or organisation, including access to one-to-one mentoring and workshops to help with growth and long-term sustainability.

Councillor Clíodhna Nic Bhranair, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee explains: “Vacant to Vibrant is supporting small businesses, independent retailers, social enterprises, and cultural and voluntary organisations to transform vacant spaces and make Belfast a more attractive, diverse and inclusive place to visit, socialise, study, work, live, and invest in. This funding is also helping to sustain jobs, create new employment opportunities, improve individual properties and the quality of our streetscapes and helping to protect heritage buildings.

“I’m so impressed at the level of ambition and creativity being displayed by the organisations we’re funding, and I’m looking forward to seeing many more applications coming through so we can help people get established in the city centre. These local businesses and organisations are providing employment, helping to deliver an authentic Belfast experience and fostering a greater sense of pride in the city.”

As part of the council’s wider programme to tackle vacancy, and to support the Vacant to Vibrant scheme, council also provides a matchmaking service through a partnership approach with commercial agent Frazer Kidd, linking businesses with potential units, with the opportunity to access capital funding through the scheme.

Grants of up to £2.5k are available for pop-up ground floor use (minimum four months), up to £15k for active floor usage up to 150m², and up to £25k for active floor usage over 151m².

The Institute of Place Management which provides strategic advice to government on supporting sustainable place making models and developing internationally recognised standards on place management performance has identified Vacant to Vibrant as an exemplary project in terms of its inception, design and delivery.

For more information, and to watch a video featuring Skull and Bones on North Street, Verona Bridal on Bruce Street and Flax Art Studios on Bedford Street, go to

Individuals and organisations wishing to find out more about the Vacant to Vibrant scheme can email the team at

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